Hollywood is
raft with urban legends and “what if” scenarios; stories that were quietly
shoved into a vault and locked away, never to be heard from again.  We’ve heard them all… what if David Lynch
ended up directing Return of the Jedi? 
What if Cronenberg directed Beverly Hills Cop?  Sure, for all we know, stories like these are
strictly hoaxes, but I defy you to tell me that they are not fun to think


A couple of years ago, I came across an article pertaining
to a number of lost Orson Welles projects. 
Now, it goes without saying that we will never see someone… a true
character… like Welles in Hollywood
ever again.  He was too much of a vocal
live wire and a genius (a word that I don’t use very often) when it came to
storytelling and the art of it.  However,
as interesting as his filmography is, it’s the films that he didn’t complete
that forces me to wonder “what if?” and imagine what will never be.


When Bob Kane introduced the world to Batman in May of
1939, his creation understandably captured the world’s imagination, especially
those in Hollywood.  Everyone in town wanted to bring the
character to the big screen.  It wasn’t
until 1943 that a Batman serial was made. 
But there were still numerous filmmakers in Hollywood
itching for a chance to bring the Dark Knight to the big screen in all of his
glory, budgetary restrictions be damned. 
One of those filmmakers was, obviously, Orson Welles. 


If you know anything about film (or theatre, for that
matter), you would know that Welles was one of the most opinionated artists in Hollywood.  Come to think of it, it’s amazing that he was
even able to work in the studio system at all. 
In any case, 1946 was the year in which Welles’ began preproduction on
his adaptation of Batman.  Rumor has it
that a treatment was written, costumes were designed and actors were lined
up.  Again, I have to stress that this is
something that was in either the very rough stages of development or a complete
hoax (I hope that it is the former). 


Apparently, Welles himself was going to take on the dual
role of Bruce Wayne and Batman (more on this little tidbit later).  As for the remainder of the cast: Basil
Rathbone was apparently set to play the Joker, Marlene Dietrich was to play
Catwoman, George Raft was looking at Two-Face and… quite possibly the best
casting decision ever, James Cagney as the Riddler.  What apparently killed any possibility of
Orson Welles’ Batman from being made was the fact that he wanted to play the
lead, while the studio was in favor of Gregory Peck.  Legend has it that when
Welles found out about this, he immediately halted production and never
considered the property again. 


Just looking over that cast has me thinking about how epic
this film could have been.  Granted, none
of this may be true, but… just think of the possibilities.  We are in 2009 and the mainstream is only now
looking at the comic book film as a true form of cinema.  What if a master like Orson Welles tackled Batman in 1946?  How would it have
changed comic books and comic book films, Welles’ career and the property of Batman itself?  The possibilities are
endless.  Even if this isn’t true, let us